Monday, 30 June 2014

Gizmodo.co.uk's Four Round Photo Challenge: Round 2

So the GizmodoUK four-round photo challenge continues in to Round 2.
I did not rank high enough in Round 1 for points but still 3 more to play for.

This weeks selection to choose my best shot from are:
All of the above were shot in the earlier part of the week.

Towards the end of the week I begun planning to make use of a clear night at Durdle Door, I won't repost them here but my two considerations for putting forward was one of two shots

This shot of the Door itself with a beautifully colourful, Milky Way lit, sky as a backdrop...

 And the resulting entrant of the Milky Way over Man o' War Bay.

Hopefully I picked the right one to give me the best chances, would you have picked differently?
We shall see how I fare against the competition this week.

!!!UPDATE!!!
I managed to get a point this round. To see the competition and the results click here.
Now to work out what to shoot for Round 3.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Sunsets and Milky Ways over the Durdle Dor

It's been very wet lately with some very cloudy weather so oppurtunities to get out and about have been elusive.
However a convenient friday night was forecast to have minimal clouds during sunset where it was going to clear up around midnight and cloud over again between 01:00 and 04:00. It would've been a waste not to take advantage and so we(Shaun and I) opted to return to Durdle Door to make up for the previous semi-failure.

It became apparent shortly after arriving that Durdle Door, whilst beautiful at sunset, at this time of year at least, was limited by having the sunset behind the cliffs as opposed to over the horizon. I Should have checked stellarium. As it happens Shaun had checked Stellarium and mentioned that the Milky Way should be in view tonight, I was pessimistic about the weather but you'll see how that turns out later.

Here's some photos of a sunset.
Look the sun is setting! You can see it! There are rays breaking out over the cliff-top and everything.
... and then it was gone...

The old way down to the beach. Fenced off and no longer used since the land slipped.

We moved down to the beach to get some angles on the door itself whilst there was still some colour in the sky.
Now the weather was windy and the waves were rough, I rather in advisably tried to capture the waves, up close and, failed really to get what I wanted. Some of the images are quite nice but not what I was after.

Also my attempts at shooting the waves had some regrettable but considered consequences.

This is a shot of some seagulls floating on the updraught by the cliffs.

Here is the consequence of my attempts at shooting the waves.
A completely spattered and filthy lens which had a direct impact on the following shots where you can see the light is glaring through the misted areas. (Around the cliff edges on the right most noticeably.)


I gave the lens a clean down and decided, as the sky was still quite bright, to try some long exposures with a high f/stop, a low ISO and a very long shutter speed with a mind to getting the water to go a bit creamier. It was windy so I knew the foreground grass would be affected but still.
Shaun's camera in the foreground for this shot. You can see quite clearly some of the brighter stars are starting to appear in the darker patches of sky.

I then set the camera rolling for a time-lapse facing vaguely in the direction of where the Milky Way would be over the door. It was still too light when I started it and I couldn't see it on camera either at the end but on review in post-processing it's quite clear.
The following shot is the last frame in the time-lapse.

Once I was finished with the timelapse I started playing around with different angles. The following shot shows the torch lights of some other late night photographers, they came and went after spending a short time in the surf. I'd be interested to see what results they got.

A bit later/darker still and the Milky Way is visible to the naked-eye it is so dark.

I played around with my camera settings further and got this following shot of the Milky Way contrasted by the harsh light pollution from Portland!

We then packed up to leave but because we were so happy with our shots so far and the weather, whilst still uncomfortably cold/windy, was fairly clear we decided to move up the cliff and shoot the other-side of the door where there are some large rock formations jutting out of the sea.

By the time we got there I believe the sky was properly and fully dark, this was when I got the following shots.
This last shot, with Shaun's foot and back-of-camera-preview-glare is probably among my favourites for the night and it was also my last. The Milky Way is just so very clear and having the human element in the foreground sort of tells a story, puts things in perspective.
For further perspective why not read Shaun's version of events where he talks about using his Nikon D90 and doing HDR for the first time.

Anyway with that we packed up and commenced the long hike back up the cliffs and to the car on the far side of the camp-site.


Monday, 23 June 2014

Gizmodo.co.uk's Four Round Photo Challenge - Round 1

So GizmodoUK are running there usual photo challenge but, as it's an anniversary fro their challenges they've spiced it up by adding four rounds over a four week period. 

I thought I'd make a proper effort to be involved in this challenge, see if I can't score a point or two along the way.
The thing is, whilst the challenge itself demands a single "best shot" for the week along the way i'll likely make a couple, potentially that I might have difficulty choosing from. 
I figured, why not post what my short lists were.

So here we go, my shortlisted-entries for Round 1 were:

A lady bird that I found trying to escape from the lawnmower or one of the shots from my trip to Stone Henge.

My end choice was this one.
What do you think? Was there a better Stone Henge shot? Were the ladybird shots better?

I've been a bit sick lately...


Saturday, 21 June 2014

Sunrise at Stone Henge 2014

Every year I hear about folks going down to Stonehenge for the solstice and I kick myself both for forgetting it was coming up and simply for not going.

This year, I vowed, would be different!
This year, I swore, I would be there!
I was!

I had a few problems.
I was mostly stood up at the last minute by everyone who said they were interested in going*.
* - Whilst they all had perfectly reasonable and understandable explanations for not being able to go I will be visiting each of them individually in the dead of night and reproducing the summer solstice to their inconvenience by gradually shining a tablelamp in their sleeping faces.

By the time I'd given up on people joining me and got myself ready to go I was set to arrive at around 01:00am.
On arrival I was directed to a parking spot to the side of one of the fields towards the rear. A great number of people had already arrived, a significant number of which were loitering around their vehicles rather than heading down to the stones. (Sunrise being at 04:43'ish, I guess there was no rush)
Not sure what it was going to be like I decided to minimize my gear, carrying only my camera and a second lens. I can't imagine what I was thinking but somehow I reached the rationale that I should leave the tripod behind.

"If i need it..." I thought "... I can just come get it."
It was the most regrettable decision I made, with no stabilisation I had to pump my ISO quite far and I could only do so much to avoid hand-shaken shots. I could have done so much better but what I didn't realise was that the stones themselves were over a mile and a half away from where they had me park. The path was quite indirect and not uncomfortably hilly, I think it took somewhere along the lines of 30-40 minutes to walk.

Once in, I proceeded to clamber over all the sleeping solstice goers, carefully pick my way through the crowds and just get as up and close to the stones as I could, making sure to take full advantage of the fact that I could be so close.
As I did so I snapped away as best I could.
I was happy that in some of these shots, even though they are handheld, I did still manage to get some stars in the background, something I wasn't sure would be possible with all the floodlighting.
I decided to leave before sunrise as I had responsibilities at home to deal with for the remainder of that day and have a couple of hours sleep would be needed and I didn't want to get stuck behind a queue of several thousand people trying to lave the carpark. Overall though the evening was very nice. Not quite what I expected with there being food vans there with flashing signs and everything was floodlit(for safety).
There were a lot of people there when I was there 01:00am-3:30am and the numbers were steadily growing as I left. The atmosphere though was friendly and even though I was nervous about my gear before leaving the car I was more than comfortable once I started snapping.

If the weather is promising I'll be back next year, if not again this year for the winter solstice... fully equipped this time though.